The Hampshire Santa Special

Local Editor:

Here’s a list of Hampshire Father Christmas/Santa Claus experiences and grottos that I put together for the Mumsnet Hampshire Blog. It covers the whole county including Portsmouth and Southampton.

Originally posted on Mumsnet Local Hampshire:

MN Santa SleighI’ve put together a list of great places to go to meet Father Christmas or Santa Claus in Hampshire. Some need booking in advance, others are first come first served, some can be booked on arrival so do check the details ahead of your trip.

The pricing structure and opening dates for some of these is very detailed so I’ve left the pricing and specific dates off and you’ll need to click the highlighted words for more details. This list is by no means exhaustive and I might add to it as I find more great grottos and experiences!

Andover Garden Centre, Andover – Visit a traditional Santa’s Grotto.  Booking necessary, available from the 5th December 2014, check website for dates.

Andover Garden Centre, Andover – Eat breakfast or  tea with Father Christmas, decorate  cookie and receive a gift.  Teas available from the 5th December, breakfasts from the 6th, booking necessary.


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Portsmouth Weekend Highlights 15th/16th November

With the Southsea Christmas lights now on, this weekend really marks the start of the festive season and all manner of Christmassy events will commence.

frozen keydellsFor those avidly looking forward to the arrival of Santa, he will be arriving at Keydell Nurseries this Saturday in his usual horse drawn carriage style (around 11 am) and you can visit him in his grotto at the garden centre for £10.50 per child on a first come first served basis – it’s not possible to pre-book, you can only purchase the tickets on the day.  If you want to pre-book at Keydells you can however purchase tickets in advance for the Santa’s Elves Party with Frozen Characters which is available for £19.99 a ticket and includes a cold picnic tea, party, visit with Santa and choice of unwrapped gift. The parties take place on the 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th 17th and 18th December from 5 pm.

If you’re looking for some gifts then there’s plenty of places to try this weekend:

The St Philips Church (Cosham) Christmas Fayre takes place this Saturday from 12 noon to 3pm and you can also visit Santa there (well, he is magic and he can be in several places at once).  St James Church in Milton also have their Christmas Fayre from 10.30 am on Saturday. St Cuthberts Church in Lichfield Road will also be holding a Fayre this Saturday from 10 am with plenty of stalls and refreshments.

aspexAspex Gallery will be holding a Contemporary Makers Fayre this weekend from 11 am – 4 pm each day, where you will find specially selected stall holders showcasing jewellery, ceramics, print making and glassware.  There will be unique gifts and stocking fillers on offer and creative workshops and tasty specials in the café.

Port Solent Sunday Market takes place this weekend as does Crafts in the Tower at the Square Tower both from 11 am.

Further afield the Occasions Card Shop in Fareham Shopping Centre are holding a Frozen Extravaganza on Saturday where they will have exclusive Frozen stock unavailable anywhere else, specially flown in for this event.

A Christmas Market is being held at the Downland and Weald Museum with reduced entrance fees, 130 stands selling arts, crafts, food and unusual gifts and most importantly, roasted chestnuts.

Finally, what better way to get into the mood than to take in the ultra Christmassy family orientated ballet, The Nutcracker,  at the Kings Theatre on Sunday night at 7.30 pm.

If you’d like more details on any of the above simply click on the highlighted words which will take you to the site for further information.  There are lots of Christmas Events on the Mumsnet Portsmouth site and if you want to look further afield have a look at the Mumsnet Hampshire or Mumsnet Southampton sites for inspiration. New events are being added all the time.


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Expert Tips: Capturing Those “Perfect” Moments

Local Editor:

Some great tips on family photography – and here’s mine – get lots of props for some lovely moments with your children trying on oversized hats, glasses etc.

Originally posted on London-on-Toast:

We recently met local photographer Claudine Yap. As a new mum to a two-month old son, she’s making a transition in her photography career from event photography to children and family portrait photography, offering on-location shots or studio shots.


Based in Buckhurst Hill, she shoots in her bespoke studio or on location for your family.

She specialises in recording the feelings of family life: joy, wonder, happiness, quiet contemplation, and great good humour. Shooting newborns, babies, children and family, she aspires to create a fun and relaxed environment during her photo shoots to bring out the very best in people.

We asked her to give her suggestions for taking our own family photos. We thought this might come in handy as the Christmas season approaches.

  1. I always advise my clients to put plain, bright-coloured clothes on their children, especially if the pictures are taken outdoors, because patterned clothing can sometimes…

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Consumer Rights – #ChristmasShopping


Biscoes Logo

With Christmas just around the corner, here is everything you need to know about your rights when making those special purchases.

We’ve all been there. You purchase that dress you love but when you get it home it (a) doesn’t fit; (b) looks awful; or (c) for no reason at all you decide that you hate it completely.  You therefore take the item back to the shop to ask for a refund only to be told that you cannot have one.

Your rights as a consumer are governed by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 where you purchase ‘goods’ (for example a dress or T-shirt) or the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, where you are provided with a ‘service’ (e.g. eating out at a restaurant or a mobile phone contract).  Many people know little about their rights arising from these Acts.

It is worth bearing in mind that these Acts only apply to consumers and therefore do not apply if you are buying something in the course of a business.

‘Goods’ that you purchase must fit the description given when they were sold to you, must be fit for the purpose for which they were sold and must be of satisfactory quality.  Satisfactory quality will be determined based upon the standard that a reasonable person would believe to be satisfactory, taking into account all of the circumstances, for example the price of the item.

Common pitfalls:

1. Buying the wrong version

If you purchase the wrong version of something, for example a fridge which does not fit in your kitchen, this in itself does not make the item faulty.  However, if you had asked a shop worker for the measurements of the fridge, and these had been incorrectly given to you causing you to purchase the wrong size, this means that the goods are not fit for the purpose for which they were sold to you and you can ask for your money back.

2. Second Hand Goods

Buying second hand goods from a private seller means that your rights are nowhere near as strong as buying from a shop, unless of course the seller explicitly misleads you in order to encourage you to purchase their item.

3. Unsuitability

If you purchase an item and later decide that it is unsuitable, unless it is faulty, the shop is under no obligation to take your goods back and provide a refund.  That said, even though they are not obliged to provide a refund, plenty of shops still do, and it may be worth making an enquiry anyway.  Many high street stores have returns policies allowing you to return an item within a set timeframe.  But keep in mind, these are goodwill policies and cannot be expected as a right.

4. Credit Notes

If you are returning an item which is not faulty and the policy of the particular shop is to provide a credit note, then you will have to accept this.  Remember, they are under no legal oblication to exchange non-faulty items. If you are provided with a credit note, ensure that you read the terms for using it and keep in mind the timeframe in which you have to spend it.

5. Sold as Seen

You will not be entitled to a refund where a fault was pointed out prior to the purchase.

6. Advertised Prices

Many people believe that if goods are mispriced whilst being advertised (including on the shelf), the shop is obliged to sell the goods at that price.  This is a myth and the shop is not obliged to do so.  However, if it is the case that the shop has intentionally misled you, or if you complain and the shop puts the goods back on the shelf at the same price without amendment, this is a potential criminal offence.

So always remember, if the goods are faulty, the law will govern your rights over and above the returns policy.

If the goods are not faulty you will have to smile sweetly and act in accordance with the particular shop’s returns policy.

On a final note, it is worth remembering that during the Christmas period many shops extend the timeframe in which you have to return an item so keep an eye out for this at the time of purchase.

This is a guest blog post written by Biscoes Solicitors, with offices in Portsmouth, Waterlooville, Wickham, Petersfield, Portchester and Gosport.



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#HolidaysAreComing – and so is the Coca-Cola Truck

coca cola truckWe’ve already seen the John Lewis Ad and so we know Christmas is well and truly on its way, but for some, it’s just not Christmas until the first sighting of the Coca-Cola Christmas advert, which is due this year to debut on Saturday 8th November during the break on X Factor.  The new-look ad opens with a scene featuring the iconic Coca-Cola Father Christmas and a number of different acts of kindness through various experiences with friends, families and amongst strangers set to the heart-warming ‘Make Someone Happy’ soundtrack by Jimmy Durante.

Coca-Cola are continuing with the Christmas Truck Tour, which this year, will stop at Asda Havant in Bedhampton on the 19th December 2014 between 1 pm and 9 pm.  On each stop, people have the chance to take pictures with the truck as it lights up (just like the advert), whilst enjoying a snowy winter wonderland setting and a refreshing Coca-Cola or Diet Coke as a choir sings Christmas hits.

You can also send a digital greetings card with Coca-Cola this year, taking the form of a personalised video message to family and friends. Just visit the Make a Wish page, to create and send a Christmas Wish to a loved one by truck, elf, bottle or magic.  And if you are so minded, you can also buy a limited edition glass  ‘Ribbon’ bottle with a label that transforms into a bow.  Share a coke with… 500ml bottles will also be available featuring the names of our favourite reindeers, including Rudolph (yes I know, not one of the eight), Dancer and Blitzen.

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Portsmouth RNLI Santa 5K and 10K



The Believe and Achieve Santa Fun Run takes place this year on the 14th December 2014, allowing anyone and everyone to dress up like Santa and raise money for a great cause, the RNLI.

Two races are available, the 5K fun run/walk and the 10K (much less fun) run. To sign up go to the Believe and Achieve Personal Consultancy website, or you can sign up in person at Velocity Bikes in Cosham, Alexandra Sports in Hilsea or Absolute Running in Gosport.

Child and adult santa suits are included in the registration fee and if you’ve a little one why not run with them in the buggy? Here’s a picture of my daughter from when I ran it a couple of years ago.  Excellent effort at a sleigh if I do say so myself. :) I think I might go and sign up again actually…


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Review: Muchachos Singing Spanish and C’est Chouette Singing French

muchachos 2I was recently invited to a taster session with Muchachos Singing Spanish.  Set up by Debbie Garrick in 2010, she also runs C’est Chouette Singing French sessions throughout Portsmouth and at various other venues throughout Hampshire.  Having worked in a pre-school in Norway teaching French and English as a foreign language, she saw first hand how keen people abroad were to get their 2 and 3 year olds learning languages.  On moving back to the UK as a single parent, she wanted to find something to do that fitted around her children and she started researching language development.

What she found was that there were a whole host of benefits to teaching your child a second language from an early age.  In particular it can improve problem solving skills, increase language understanding as a whole and help retention of information.  Children respond well to music and remembering songs, and Deborah started developing themes, starting with body parts, and moving on to transport, actions, food and animals.

A member of the Chartered Institute for Linguists, Deborah attends the Language Show and seminars every year and keeps up to date with language policy and developments in the national curriculum.

The session starts with introductions, and I sat with my son (nearly 2) in a circle whilst we introduced ourselves, the older children giving their own names, and the younger having their parents introduce themselves.  All conversation takes place in spanish, and given I have never learned Spanish I was a little apprehensive about being able to follow and help my son.  I needn’t have worried.  The repetitive nature of the introductions meant that I very soon picked up what was being said, and the children all clearly knew what to expect and answered accordingly.

MuchachosThe structure of the session is fixed around games and songs,  using a variety of brightly coloured props.  The words for the songs are displayed as you sing so that you can pick up the words yourself and help your child, and the children seemed to have far less trouble than I did with the words – lovely Spanish versions of well known tunes and songs including Incy Wincy Spider amongst others. We played several inventive games including the sock game, where two colours of sock (in this case pink and purple) are handed out to each child, one for each hand, and instructions given to touch various body parts with a specific colour – which proved to be a very effective way of learning the colours and the body parts. Various other games were played which taught other colours and animal names.

The sessions are 45 minutes long which seemed to be just about right – enough time to get plenty of games and songs in, but just short enough that the children were kept interested throughout. My son is only just picking up English words and phrases now, but I was pleasantly surprised that he was picking up the odd Spanish word and repeating it appropriately, and much more importantly, he was having a lot of fun. I can see that with continued attendance he would certainly start to pick it up, even at 2.

Muchachos 2It’s a new term this week but people can start at any time,  and Muchachos and C’est Chouette both offer a free taster session and then it’s a termly booking (or whatever the remainder of the term is). Classes are for children from babies (Baby Spanish) to older pre-schoolers up to the age of 5. Deborah tells me that most children take around 3 weeks for it to all click.  If you’d like to book a taster session then you can do so via the website or email or call 07796144388. Portsmouth venues include the Drayton Centre on Wednesdays (Spanish and French) and Thursdays (Spanish, including Baby Spanish) at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Fawcett Road, Southsea.  You can also access classes in Chichester, Hedge End and Petersfield. Classes cost just £30 per 6 week term for pre-schoolers and £24 for baby Spanish.


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Get out and about with 50% off South West Trains this Half Term

swt_logo for 3rd PartiesEnjoy 50% off standard off-peak day return tickets every day until Friday 31st October when you book in advance with South West Trains!

The best news is you can travel ANYWHERE across the South West Trains network!  So book your ticket online today and start exploring!  You can also book your tickets at ticket offices or by calling 0345 6000 650.  Remember you must book your tickets a minimum of 24 hours before you travel to receive the discounted fare!


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Weekend Events 11th/12th October 2014

Danyah Miller in I Believe in Unicorns - Photo credit Richard Davenport.
Danyah Miller in I Believe in Unicorns – Photo credit Richard Davenport.

Cinema offerings this weekend from Vue’s Kids AM club  – apparently just on Sunday are Earth to Echo or Maleficent both on at 10 am – just £1.75 a ticket. Port Solent’s Odeon is also showing Earth to Echo on both Saturday and Sunday at 11 am – £2.50 a ticket here but at least another hour in bed.


See! Make! Do! is on at the Aspex Gallery on Saturday – join the participation team and artist Letty Clark for a family art session.  Always a choice of at least three activities using a variety of materials and media, all based on the current installations in the gallery.

Creative Hearts will be holding their monthly session for dads to get creative with their children on Saturday at Drayton United Church from 10.30 am – 11.30 am, £2 a session.  Mums are welcome too, provided they bring Dad.

Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns will be at The Spring in Havant, brought to you by Olivier Award nominated theatre company Wizard.  This intimate show is set in a library full of books that hold more than stories between their pages.  It is a tale of the power of books and the bravery of a young boy called Tomas.  Tomas hates reading at school but his world is turned upside down the day he meets the Unicorn Lady in his local library… Add your own magic to the story by bringing your own book to add to the set and swap it for another at the end. This production is suitable for children aged between 5 and 11 years of age and is part of Havant’s literary festival.

large-121723-sp-glass-slipper-special-briliance-Groundlings Theatre are hosting a recruitment event for the Dockyard’s Festival of Christmas, so if you want to perform, do stage management or work within the wardrobe department in the largest Christmas festival in Europe, you can register between 2 pm and 9 pm on Saturday 11th. On Sunday they will be hosting auditions for child performers for this year’s pantomime Cinderella from 10 am – 5 pm.

Bransbury Park Miniature Railway will be running on Sunday afternoon, weather permitting for the penultimate session this year.

Further afield you can find the Autumn Pumpkin Festival and Scarecrow Avenue at Royal Victoria Country Park.  There will be a decorated Pumpkin competition, children’s games, craft stalls and local food and drink together with live music.  The Mayflower Theatre in Southampton will be playing Peppa Pig’s Big Splash on Saturday with performances at 10.30 am, 1.30 pm and 4 pm.


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My Journey Portsmouth Loves Cycling – Here’s why:

4984 My Journey - I love Cycling 800 x 800 TWO RSWe all know cycling is good for our health, the environment and our budgets, but…

It is a common statement, and one that I hear friends saying, normally followed by a reason why they don’t cycle.  I can sympathise; when it is cold and/or wet the last thing anyone wants to do is pick up their children from school with bikes dragging lunchboxes, PE kits and water bottles home or to cycle around town to pick up the ingredients for tonight’s tea.

When looking into the benefits associated with cycling and being active in general, they are pretty conclusive.  A study carried out at University of East Anglia (UEA), followed nearly 18,000 adult commuters from across the UK over 18 years.  Researchers found that those who had an active commute were more likely to have a higher level of well-being that those who went by car or public transport.

It is not just commuters that benefit from cycling (or walking) to their destinations.  If we all are a little more active our chances of obesity and associated problems of coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes etc… are greatly reduced.  Add feeling less stressed into this mix and cycling seems like a very good idea.  You get fit and feel great, what’s not to love about cycling?  You could cycle the school run, cycle to work or get together with friends to cycle for fun.

Portsmouth City Council and My Journey are running the I Love Cycling campaign.  The idea is to encourage more people (like parents) to dust our bikes off, gingerly get on them and get going.  The Campaign provides training, classes, routes and other essential pieces of information that make cycling round the city easier and more convenient than driving, (which, most of the time, it really is).

We are looking for ways to encourage more people like you to get on their bikes and to that end I throw the floor open to you to tell us what works for you and what you would like to see changed. You can engage with us on Facebook or Twitter @MyJourneyHants.

Check our website for details of up-coming events, courses and routes.

My Journey

This is a guest blog post by My Journey Portsmouth, in association with Portsmouth City Council.

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